WHEN Middle Eastern refugees began arriving in Europe last year, Martina Scheibova, a consultant in Prague, felt sympathy for them. Now she is less sure. They create a “clash of cultures”, she says anxiously. Such fears are shared by many Europeans. But unlike Germans or Swedes, Ms Scheibova is unlikely to encounter many refugees. Czech public opinion is solidly against taking in asylum-seekers; Milos Zeman, the Czech Republic’s populist president, calls Muslim refugees “practically impossible” to integrate. In the past year, the country has accepted just 520.
The backlash against refugees can be felt across Europe. Xenophobic parties are at record levels in polls in Sweden and the Netherlands, and even in Germany the Eurosceptic, far-right Alternative für Deutschland party is polling in double digits. But central Europe’s response has been particularly strong. Anti-migrant sentiment has unified the “Visegrad group” of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic—normally a disparate bunch who agree on some subjects (like opposing Europe’s climate policies) but are divided on others (like Russia). Rather than noisy opposition groups, it is governments in these countries who trumpet some of the most extreme views. And they are taking advantage of anti-migrant fervour to implement an illiberal agenda on other fronts, too.
Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, has been the loudest of the anti-immigrant voices. Mr Orban began inveighing against migrants early in 2015, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, when the numbers arriving in Europe were still relatively low. His government now wants to introduce anti-terror laws that worry civil libertarians, though the details are vague. Fidesz, Mr Orban’s party, pioneered Europe’s illiberal wave: when it came to power in 2010 it limited the constitutional court’s powers, packed it with cronies and introduced a new constitution. Fidesz changed the electoral system, helping it win again in 2014, says Andras Biro-Nagy of Policy Solutions, a think-tank. A new media regulator was set up, headed by a Fidesz stalwart. Public television channels were stuffed with pro-Fidesz journalists, while foreign media were taxed more heavily than domestic ones. (The tax was rescinded after criticism from the main foreign channel, RTL Klub.)
Pour lire la suite : http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21689629-migration-crisis-has-given-unsettling-new-direction-old-alliance-big-bad-visegrad